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Literacy Instruction: 2020 and Beyond
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Literacy Instruction: 2020 and Beyond
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    • ~6 years old (Grade 1)
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    Teaching and Testing the Alphabetic Principle in Kindergarten

    By Arlene C. Schulze
     | Nov 20, 2020

    Arlene teachingIn these stressful times, focusing on our main literacy goal for kindergartners—learning the alphabetic principle, which is the foundational skill of all writing and reading—is essential.

    ILA’s Literacy Glossary defines alphabetic principle as the concept that letters or groups of letters in alphabetic orthographies (i.e., written systems) represent the phonemes (sounds) of spoken language.

    Four decades ago, Carol Chomsky encouraged preschool, kindergarten, and first graders to try to write before they read because of the valuable practice they received from translating sound to print. Around that time, Charles Read demonstrated that some young children made up the spellings of the words they speak by listening to the individual sounds (phonemes) in words and then attempting to find written letters (graphemes) to represent those phonemes. Connecting sounds to letters in this manner is called invented spelling. Invented spelling not only helps develop the alphabetic principle but also is the best predictor of reading according to Charles Temple and colleagues, Donald Bear and colleagues, and Marie Clay.

    LG_Invented spelling definition

    Promoting invented spelling

    As a literacy consultant who has worked in more than 100 kindergarten classrooms over the past 34 years, I have found that teachers understand students actively construct their own literacy learning about phoneme–grapheme correspondences when they engage in the process of meaningful writing of their own choosing. However, this leads educators to seek out ways to help their students write with inventing spelling.

    Invented spelling can be challenging when students write random strings of symbols or mix numbers and shapes with mock letters. To help this issue, I devised Getting Ready, a daily learning structure that should precede writers’ workshop. Getting Ready uses two song strategies and three sound–letter connecting strategies.

    Getting Ready: Two song strategies

    The first song strategy, ABC Song Strategy, helps students find—and, when ready, write—letters of their choosing. It is sung to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and requires both an ABC chart for class use and individual ABC strips for each student to use as they write independently.

    The second song strategy, The Name Song, helps students hear beginning individual sounds in spoken words (phonemic awareness). It is sung to the tune of “Skip to My Lou.” I begin teaching this strategy with sound matching by having students try to match the sound I say with the beginning sound in one of their classmate’s names.

    When most of the class can successfully sound match, I proceed to sound isolation, which is basically a reverse of sound matching: I say a student’s name and the student’s classmates must isolate the first sound in the name. Students love playing with their classmates’ names like this.

    Getting Ready: Three sound–letter connecting strategies

    After kindergartners can isolate individual beginning sounds in classmate’s names, I proceed to teach three sound­­–letter connecting strategies.

    The first strategy shown in the video clip is Connecting Sound to Picture. Students isolate the beginning sound in a classmate's name and then look for a picture on the class ABC chart that begins with the same matching sound. 

    The second strategy shown is Connecting Sound to Letter Name. Students isolate the beginning sound in a classmate's name and then look at the class ABC chart and try to find a letter name that has the same sound.

    The third strategy shown is Connecting Sound to Classmate's Name. Students isolate the beginning sound in a classmate's name and then connect the sound to the first letter of that classmate's name. 

    I have observed kindergartners using these strategies on their own as they attempt to write in writers’ workshop. Continuing to guide students as they practice these strategies though the use of daily writing workshop conferences is most helpful.

    Verify the value

    To prove these strategies improve kindergartners’ understanding of the alphabetic principle, I use Clay’s Dictation Test as found in Clay’s An Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement. This test is designed to check a student’s ability to hear individual sounds in words. However, it also checks the student’s understanding of the alphabetic principle.

    When Clay’s Dictation Test is administered individually to kindergartners, they attempt to write what they hear in the following sentence as it is read aloud very slowly:

    I can see the red boat that we are going to have a ride in.

    One point is scored for each sound heard and recorded appropriately as a letter. A perfect score is 37. 

    The following images, which are copies of tests I administered to students myself, show results from the student who scored the highest of the class (19/37) at the beginning of the year (image A) and who had a perfect score (37/37) at the end of the year (image B).

    Sample of student's test

    Compare this with the progress of the student who scored the lowest in the class (0/37) at the beginning of the year (test not shown). This student improved significantly (28/37) by the end of the year (see below).

    Second student test

    Notice the progress both students have made. That the rest of the kindergarten class was equally successful and scored somewhere between a 28 and 37 on Clay’s Dictation Test is worth noting.

    The results of Clay’s Dictation Test verify that all 20 students in this kindergarten class could write with invented spelling, which demonstrates an understanding of sound­–letter relationships, the alphabetic principle. All these students became writer–readers.

    I have seen similar results across the many kindergarten classes where writers’ workshop and the Getting Ready strategy were used as I have described. Knowledge of the alphabetical principle allows every student to be a writer–reader, and the strategies I have described are a highly effective way to teach it.

    Arlene C. Schulze is a longtime reading teacher and specialist. She holds a degree in elementary education from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a master's degree in reading from the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point (UWSP).

    She has been a K­–2 literacy consultant to three school systems in North Central Wisconsin and a literacy instructor in reading and language arts at UWSP for many years.  She is the author of the book Helping Children Become Readers Through Writing: A Guide to Writing Workshop in Kindergarten. She is currently coaching kindergarten teachers and tutoring struggling readers in northern Wisconsin.

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    Observing Young Readers and Writers: A Tool for Informing Instruction

    By Alessandra E. Ward, Nell K. Duke, and Rachel Klingelhofer
     | Oct 27, 2020

    Teacher and studentListening to students read aloud is an essential practice for any primary-grade teacher. It is no less essential than a swimming coach watching children swim or a piano teacher listening to a child play. Listening to students read aloud provides an important opportunity for the teacher to coach or prompt students when they are stuck on a word or when they encounter other problems when reading. (For a discussion of research-informed practices for prompting students during reading, see Nell’s piece in the upcoming November issue of ASCD’s Educational Leadership).

    Running records

    Traditionally, many educators have used running records to derive information from listening to students read aloud. An advantage of running records is that they can be taken anytime that a student is reading aloud using only a scrap of paper.

    RunningRecordsExample

    A challenge with running records is that the data they yield are so open ended that the data can lead to misinterpretation. For example, some people have interpreted the misreading of words in a running record to be positive as long as the words make sense in context (e.g., being satisfied when students read glass for cup). Although it is certainly important that readers engage in sense-making when they read, for word identification, attending to the letters and groups of letters in words is the critical skill of successful readers. In addition, running records explicitly signal only a few aspects of reading to attend to. There are many aspects of the complex act of reading that are worthy of educators’ attention when listening to a student read.

    LTR-WWWP

    To address these challenges, we have developed a tool to guide the process of listening to students read aloud and observing them write: The Listening to Reading-Watching While Writing Protocol (LTR-WWWP). Like running records, the LTR-WWWP can be applied any time a student is reading or writing anything in the classroom—a truly curriculum-based assessment—but unlike running records, the tool provides much more guidance about what to listen for in the student’s reading.

    For example, the tool lists specific word identification strategies that research suggests are good for students to use—such as chunking a word or trying an alternate vowel sound. It does not list strategies that are not desirable. In fact, everything on the LTR-WWWP is a potential instructional target: something specific that you can teach or work on. The tool doesn’t yield a “level” or a “score” but rather points to specific foci for instruction—a graphophonemic relationship to teach (e.g., sh = /sh/), a strategy to teach (e.g., rereading), a skill to teach (e.g., attending to specific punctuation marks to support fluent reading), a text feature to teach, and so on. 

    Although we provide considerable guidance in the form regarding what to look for in a student’s reading (and writing, as discussed below), it is an informal tool. You can tailor its use to what would be most helpful to inform instruction. This means you can pause at any point during the reading to ask students questions (e.g., Is that a new word for you? Do you know what it means? How did you figure that out?), encourage students to share their thinking at any time, and even provide needed instruction.

    Dr. Ashelin Currie of Oakland Schools, who was among the educators who piloted the tool, commented on “the humanity of the tool.” She wrote, “Especially during this time, we need to connect with our students as human beings. I'm doing this assessment to learn about you/the child. I'm interested in learning about you as a reader.”

    Reading and writing

    Reading and writing are deeply related. Students’ knowledge and skills in one area are typically closely related to their knowledge and skills in the other (think knowledge of informational text features and skill in decoding and spelling). Therefore, we designed the LTR-WWWP so that it could be used for writing as well as for reading.

    As with reading, there is great potential value in watching the process of students writing, even for just a short portion of the time during which they are doing so. Depending on the phase(s) of writing you observe, you can address questions such as these:

    • Did the student plan the writing?
    • Did the student stretch words to spell them?
    • Was the student gripping the writing utensil properly?
    • Did the student use any resources to support vocabulary/word choice in the writing?
    • Did the student use any strategies while editing the writing?

    Information from these observations can be complemented by analysis of the writing sample itself (e.g., the spelling, text structure, ideas, voice). As with listening to reading, the purpose of these observations and analyses is to inform next steps for instruction.
    LTR-WWWPFrontLTR-WWWPBack

    Formative assessment

    In sum, the LTR-WWWP is an informal formative assessment tool designed to help guide attention to particular aspects of the student’s reading or writing in order to inform next steps in instruction. In particular, the tool directs attention to the following:

    • Reading and spelling of single-syllable or multisyllabic words
    • Word identification or spelling strategies
    • Letter formation/handwriting
    • Comprehension monitoring
    • Vocabulary strategies or word choice
    • Fluency
    • Comprehension (including general comprehension, reactions and responses, genre, strategies, text structure/organization, and features)
    • Compreaction (i.e., processing the meaning of the text in relation to one’s purpose for reading—what one “does” with comprehension)
    • Composition (including reactions and responses, genre, strategies, text structure/organization, text features, attention to purpose and audience, voice, content/ideas, sentence construction)

    It is certainly not expected that all these aspects of literacy development would be addressed in every instance of using the LTR-WWWP. Rather, its use supports attention to these constructs over time, with the purpose of helping us make daily decisions to support the literacy growth of our students.

    Accessing the LTR-WWWP 

    A video presenting key points about the tool, detailed directions for using the tool, completed examples of the tool, a blank copy of the tool in printable and fillable PDF form, and videos of the use of the LTR-WWWP in action are available. Some of the videos were conducted in a remote/videoconference format.

    Of course, there is much to say about what to do instructionally with the information the LTR-WWWP provides, but that is beyond the scope of this post. Also, it is important to note that the LTR-WWWP does not obviate the need for other assessment tools, such as systematic assessments of reading comprehension and letter–sound knowledge. Still, the focus of the tool on the actual acts of reading and writing, the fact that it can be used whenever a student is reading (aloud, at least) or writing, and the added level of guidance it provides over running records, make it a potentially valuable tool in our formative assessment portfolio.

     

    ILA member Alessandra E. Ward is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan. Her work focuses on the literacy engagement of young learners. You can follow her on Twitter @wardalessandrae.

    ILA member Nell K. Duke is a professor in literacy, language, and culture and also in the combined program in education and psychology at the University of Michigan. She is the recipient of ILA’s William S. Gray Citation of Merit for outstanding contributions to literacy research, theory, policy, and practice. You can follow her on Twitter @nellkduke.

    ILA member Rachel Klingelhofer is a lecturer in the University of Michigan’s teacher education programs. Much of her teaching work is field instruction, where she helps interns apply what they are learning in real classrooms with real students.

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    Encouraging Independent Reading Remotely in the COVID-19 Era

    By Marie Havran
     | Aug 28, 2020
    Girl reading

    To escape the fear of an uncertain start to the school year, I find myself reading more than ever before. I’ve always enjoyed reading, but in this season of social distancing and remote learning, it feels different. Lately, I find myself thinking of my students and considering how I can nurture their independent reading within my virtual classroom. Even with limited access, I do believe it’s not only possible but also necessary for my students to continue turning toward reading in challenging times or to fall in love with it for the first time. My hope is that, as readers, we can continue to grow and have our independent reading take on a new significance. Here are some suggestions of how you can encourage independent reading.

    Host a book show-and-tell

    Go “old school” and host a reading show-and-tell. Invite students to share their favorite book or what they’re currently reading. This is also a great way to introduce new authors and genres.

    Invite guest readers

    Although there are many online read-aloud resources available, students might be more interested to see familiar faces or be read to by someone with an authentic connection to the class. You can invite other educators, local libraries, or students’ family members and caregivers to read aloud.

    Don’t be afraid to ask students who they would like to invite to a virtual read-aloud. It’s the perfect way to have your students experience new reading styles and continue to build school community.

    Match reading buddies

    Get to know your students’ reading interests by having them complete a reading interest survey. This will not only provide you with a wealth of information but also reveal which students have similar reading interests so that you can pair them. Encourage reading buddies to check in on each other to offer motivation and book recommendations.

    Establish online book clubs

    Reading is a social act. Join students together within an online book club using Zoom video breakout rooms. As the meeting host, you can start with the whole class and then place students into sub-meetings for discussions. You will be able to switch between these sub-meetings at any time.

    Lead by example

    Sharing your reading life is important, and you can do that easily with your students by using the Chrome extension Currently Reading for Gmail. Select the books you are currently reading from their database, and the titles will appear automatically in your email signature for your email recipients to see.

    Promote audiobooks

    One way to lure students into reading is through audiobooks. Audiobooks provide support for readers of all ages and allow students to hear fluent reading. Promote sites that offer free audiobooks, such as the following:

    Encourage book talks

    There are limitless possibilities for students to share their reading digitally, but Flipgrid and Padlet are two of my favorites. Allow students to choose which platform they feel comfortable using and have them share their reading and react to posts from their classmates.

    Online learning can be stressful for everyone, but supporting independent reading remotely shouldn’t be. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but providing motivation and encouragement for reading is a good start.

    Marie Havran is an elementary literacy specialist in Greenville, SC, and an adjunct professor at Furman University. Follow her on Twitter: @MarieHavran.

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    Reading On: Free Resources for Virtual Learning

    Morgan Ratner
     | May 15, 2020

    Smiling girl at table in front of laptopWith schools looking at long-term closures because of coronavirus (COVID-19), ensuring that students can make the most of their studies at home is more important than ever.

    The literacy and learning communities are well-equipped to help make online learning easier. In addition to ILA’s resources (including our tips for connecting with readers online and using web tools to communicate), an outpouring of support across industries has resulted in free assets educators and families and caregivers can use to engage their readers remotely.

    Below, you’ll find a handful of the many offerings at your disposal during this uncertain time. We might be forced apart, but these resources ensure that we can all continue to learn together.

    Access to Books and Literacy Instruction

    • Wondering which books your students or children might enjoy? Check our Choices reading lists to find their next read (or 10). Each year, thousands of children, teens, and educators around the United States select their favorite recently published books. Use these lists to help your readers connect with comforting stories and find their next page-turner.
    • With a free ReadWorks account, educators and parents can find web series, video tutorials, and support groups to help with reading comprehension.
    • When physical books are unavailable, audiobooks save the day. For as long as schools are closed, Audible will open up its digital library, allowing children to stream a wide collection of stories across a number of languages.
    • Teachers and homeschool educators can get a free one-year subscription to Vooks, a library of read-aloud animated storybooks.
    • Keep kids reading with Epic!, a digital library for kids 12 and under. Families can receive 30 days of free access while educators can join the platform free through June 30.
    • Until the end of June, Amazon Kindle Unlimited is offering free access to more than one million titles, for all ages and across all genres.
    • Sync provides free audiobooks to readers 13 and older, with new titles featured weekly for a one-week borrow through the summer.

    Community Resources and Library Programs

    • Who said you need to travel the globe to see great art? Google Arts & Culture has teamed up with over 2,500 museums to bring the masterpieces of artists like Van Gogh and Monet right to your living room. Talk about a virtual field trip!
    • If you’re looking to help your child or students understand the coronavirus pandemic, look to News-O-Matic, a daily virtual newspaper designed for kids. Young readers can experience the world while building media literacy skills and broadening their horizons. Teachers can receive free access until June 30.
    • Throughout the United States, now-closed libraries, such as the New York Public Library and DC Public Library, are offering library card access through digital apps and websites. Check your local library website to see what offers are available.

    Open Access Publisher Content

    • Macmillan’s trade division is offering free online resources, including downloadable activity kits, audio content, and book-specific teaching guides, while the education arm is sharing webinars and opening up their digital tools.
    • Scholastic’s Learn at Home program includes grade-appropriate projects and events, like virtual book fests, to keep children curious and engaged.
    • Harper at Home from HarperCollins is offering daily read-alouds, author appearances, and book clubs for the whole family to enjoy.

    Morgan Ratner is a freelance writer in Brooklyn, NY.

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    Earth Day 2020 Resource Roundup

    By ILA Staff
     | Apr 22, 2020

    Young Child With SunflowerToday, April 22, marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, a celebration of our planet and a day to reflect upon the choices we make and how they affect the world around us.

    Children often have an innate curiosity for the natural world and a drive toward ecological activism. During this time of sheltering in place and stay-at-home orders, help foster students’ curiosity and motivate them with inquiry-based activities and project-based learning. We’ve rounded up several resources you can share with families and caregivers to inspire green activities and environment-friendly activism today and every day.

    Follow @ILAToday and tell us how you are celebrating #EarthDay with your students and family.

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